1414. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Justice the action she plans to take in Q2 2021 to meet the objectives set out in the Action Plan 2021 to identify areas in which gaps in supports exist for victims of crime and to ameliorate those gaps; if she will examine the availability of counsellors in rape crisis centres as part of the process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19016/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): I would like to thank the Deputy for raising this important issue. Protecting and supporting victims of crime for the duration of their journey through the criminal justice system is a priority for me. In the recently launched Justice Plan 2021, I have committed to ‘Strengthening community safety, reduce reoffending, support victims and combat domestic sexual and gender based violence’.
The Justice Plan 2021 has a number of actions to advance this goal through the implementation of Supporting a Victims Journey. Supporting a Victims Journey is a detailed roadmap, which, when implemented, will ensure we have a more victim-centred system that supports and empowers victims and gives them the confidence to engage with all services knowing they will be supported, informed and treated with respect and dignity at every point and by every person they come into contact with.
The mapping exercise to identify areas in which gaps in supports exist for victims of crime that that Deputy refers to, objective 133 in the 2021 Justice Action Plan, is indicative of our commitment to working in partnership with organisations that support victims of crime to ensure the victim’s perspective and voice is at the heart of what we do. Crucially important physical and emotional supports and services are provided by NGOs and the reform and development of these services is being progressed in a spirit of co-design between the State as funder and the voluntary sector as provider.
We have reviewed our grant schemes for organisations working with victims of crime. We asked each NGO to identify the precise categories of victims they work with, the services they provide and the geographical areas they work in. The funding available increased from some €2m in 2020 to some €4m this year. We have allocated most of the 2021 grant monies, but are still analysing the data to see where gaps remain so we can work to fill those. We are also offering multi-annual funding commitments to those NGOs we work most closely with and where the funding covers staff salaries – in the interest of promoting more sustainable service delivery and planning. These grants cover court accompaniment, accompaniment to Garda interviews and to sexual assault treatment units, emotional support, counselling and referral to other services.
We are also working with our NGO partners and others to map the journey faced by individual victims to identify issues and support needs not met. The working group leading on this task has met and the NGOs have presented us with a considerable amount of data, which is currently being analysed. When this analysis is complete, the group will reconvene to identify and agree actions to be taken to meet those needs.
The outcome of this work will be published as soon as practicable but I can confirm it is on target to be completed by the end of Q2 2021, as stated in Justice Plan 2021.
The issue of the availability of counsellors in rape crisis centres is not directly under my remit as Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has statutory responsibility for the care and protection of victims of Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence (DSGBV) and fund frontline organisations that deliver services to victims.